Girl math to get behind: How female purchasing power took hold of the economy this summer and what marketers can learn from it

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A city scape of tower buildings

Female purchasing power has been in full force, with women fuelling the American (and global) economy as both consumers and producers. After months of media buzz and shortages in pink paint, Barbie’s outstanding success brought in $1.34 billion from the global box office making Greta Gerwig “the highest-grossing female director of all time in the U.S.” As Beyoncé’s Renaissance world tour with its star studded list of attendees comes to a close, Forbes has reported it’s earnings as over half a billion dollars during it’s 5 month run. Meanwhile, Taylor Swift’s Eras tour has cast a spell over fans, resulting in sales projections of around $1.3 billion. Now that’s ‘girl math’ we can get behind. 

These figures are not your average sales achievements, even by industry standards, so how have these women been able to garner such success amongst audiences? What we’ve seen is a testament to the strength of female purchasing power, and this power has been ignited by two things: the “women’s multiplier effect”, and the exchange of commerce between women – rather than women buying from men.

The women’s multiplier effect, coined by Sarah Krouse and Anne Steele at the Wall Street Journal, is a term used to describe the phenomenon of female consumers creating a complete experience around a single ticket purchase. Women attend the shows in groups and purchase additional clothing or costumes, merchandise, themed drinks, meals out, hotel rooms and more. Around 60% of the Barbie audience was female, with 38% of its audiences attending in groups of three or more, a 52% increase on usual group attendance. Recent reports from Beyoncé’s Renaissance tour share details of the whopping $4.4 billion dollars it generated for the American economy – a figure akin to the economic impact of the 2008 Beijing Olympics on China’s economy. All the while, Swift’s Eras Tour is currently on the path to generating nearly “$5 billion dollars in consumer spending in the United States alone.” Time Magazine even revealed that Swift’s opening night in Glendale, Arizona topped this year’s Super Bowl, providing more revenue for local businesses while performing in the very same stadium. 

There is more at play here than the women’s multiplier effect alone. A key factor in these success stories is that all three blow-out experiences are being sold to a female audience, by female artists and creators. It might seem a fairly obvious statement but when looking at the executives of record labels, film and theatre production companies, we see significant male leadership. With men historically occupying more leadership and board roles in business and today occupying around 71% of senior marketing roles in the UK, it’s safe to say that marketing towards women has typically come from men. Yet when we look at the success of Barbie, Renaissance and the Eras Tour we see the power of true engagement converting into sales when an audience feels seen and connected to an experience. 

What can we see in their marketing strategies?

If we take Barbie, Renaissance and the Eras tour as case studies, while each unique in their own right, their marketing strategies and creative grounding all follow themes of connection, emotion, and community (not to mention exorbitant budgets).

Barbie’s capture of mass-attention, particularly amongst female audiences, was in large part due to the multi-generational pull of not just Mattel’s most famous toy but the themes of both girlhood and motherhood expressed in the film. Warner Bros. president of global marketing Josh Goldstine, expressed that during the run up to the film release, public attention transformed the marketing campaign and it “took on the quality of a movement,” as for viewers, “wearing pink became a way of acknowledging their connection to the movie.” 

This multi-generational attraction exists within Beyoncé’s Renaissance Tour, as much of the ‘Beyhive’ have grown up listening to her music during her 25+ year long career, from her days in Destiny’s Child to her monumental solo album releases. Beyoncé herself even included her daughter, Blue Ivy in a section of the show. In an article for Forbes, Marketing coach and consultant, Sonia Thompson, talks about Beyoncé’s tour success as a demonstration of the power of belonging, “belonging is a long-term strategy. The longer you stick around, the more opportunity to connect with people in a way that makes them feel seen and supported by you.”  The feeling of belonging is exactly what Beyoncé creates through her music and through her latest tour that provided a safe and exciting space for her fans that have built a community together with her. 

The success of Swift’s Eras Tour is also highly connected to the multi-generational experience she has created with a tour that spans her entire discography as she re-records her albums. This has allowed generations of fans to engage with her old and new music, and for many to connect the nostalgia of each album to a stage in their life. The feeling of belonging and community is ever present in the Eras Tour trend of attendees making and bringing friendship bracelets to swap with other fans in the audience. Judy Foxman, retired senior lecturer of marketing at SMU/ Cox School of Business noted this strategic success stating, “She has tapped into one of the strongest and most enduring brand strengths which is emotional connection.”

So what can marketers learn from this?

What we can learn from these three female-led case studies is that ultimately, organisations, brands or artists need to provide their audiences with something that they truly want, and this requires dedicated listening and understanding. The more that marketers can connect with and get to know their audiences, the more meaningful their offering can be. When looking at these case studies through the lens of marketing towards a female audience, it’s refreshing to see that the days of women being sold to through manipulation are diminishing. Millennials and Gen Z are more likely to research and question the values behind an organisation or brand than previous generations. Instead, through the success of Barbie, Renaissance, and the Era’s tour we can see the power of the female consumer on the economy when they feel empowered and uplifted by an experience or product, and, additionally, the power of marketing efforts that seek to make its audiences feel seen.

Allie McDermott Brown - Marketing Coordinator